Tonight, I went onto my other computer. On that computer I keep some very large volumes of down-loads, such as Feynman’s ‘Lectures On Physics’, and so I rarely use it for stuff like this. I also use it for printing and for personal emails.
Tonight, there appeared a YouGov survey. YouGov surveys do not tell you what the survey is about before you start the survey. Nor do they tell you who has commissioned the survey.
Normally, I am just too busy to bother, but on this occasion I decided to complete it. The survey started off with questions about how your view dairy-farming. Questions such as: Are cows well treated? Does their farting contribute to global warming [sorry, ‘climate change’]? Is bovine TB spread by badgers? Should badgers be culled? How many cows should be described as a big herd? [This being a particularly stupid question, I put ‘a million’]. And then, for no apparent reason came two questions about smoking.
Normally, these YouGov surveys are designed in such a way that you can go back to the previous question, but this one wasn’t so designed. I did not really pay much attention since I was more interested in seeing where this series of questions was going. It was only after I had answered the two questions (or was it three?) and wanted to go back and see what exactly the questions asked did I realise that I could not go back. Questions then moved to other subjects such as the use of ‘price comparison’ sites.
The smoking questions were odd. I cannot remember precisely. You know how oddly these questions are sometimes phrased. In this case there was one which asked: ‘Would you marry a smoker? Would you insist that your spouse stops smoking? Or words to that effect. The other question was similar – I cannot remember.
But the important point is this. If I am busy elsewhere, then I might just ignore the survey because I am given no clue as to what the survey is about. Or, as in this case, I might start the survey, see that it is about the care of cows and, since I know nothing about the care of cows, abandon it. Now… how came it that these questions on smoking appeared right in the middle of this survey about cows and price comparison sites? Why? Why? Why?
Can I help it if I feel that ‘there is something going on’? This isn’t the first time that YouGov have slipped questions about smoking into the middle of surveys on other matters. What is also odd is that YouGov have a running survey about people’s opinion of the smoking ban anyway.
So why were these questions inserted in the middle of a survey about cows????
Now…the boss of YouGov is also a big ASH advocate. If he slipped the word to Arnott that these two questions were in this survey, who would know? And if Arnott slipped the word by email to many others, who would know? But it does not need to be as specific as that. If ASH followers paid particular attention to YouGov surveys, expecting, every now and again, that smoking questions would appear in the middle of questions about cows, the perception of ‘public opinion’ could be seriously affected and deliberately distorted.
Tomorrow, I shall complain to the commission. I shall demand that YouGov publish, at the beginning of the survey, whom they have been commissioned by and give a list of the subjects. I shall also demand that I can skip those questions which I have no knowledge of or do not wish to be bothered about, since, at the moment, one has to answer all questions, even if one’s answer is ‘Don’t Know’. That will not do.
I shall make this demand, and see where it goes because I am fed up with being led by the nose.
We smokers are not protesting enough to the right people, but it is difficult. I feel sure that there are many people who would like to protest but feel a lack of confidence. It is a common phenomenon.
The Government Organisation which controls public opinion polls is called MRS. At this moment I know nothing whatsoever about it. I shall find out tomorrow, and I shall complain and complain and complain. Before I complete a survey, I want to know who commissioned it, and then I want a list of the subjects. I feel that I have the right to know.